13 May 2012

How The Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill

How The Irish Saved Civilization -- 4 Stars

I picked this up a few weeks ago in a used book store and was rather surprised with the out come. I have seen this title before but never bothered to read it. Oh, why did I wait so long? WHY!? Anyway... Cahill writes in such an easy to read fashion that you can hardly tell this is a history for it reads more like a novel. Using a multitude of available scripts, scrolls and codices we are transported to the post Roman world where only the most wealthy are literate, maybe. The clergy can read and write but usually they are limited to Latin.

In the first millennium, the Irish present themselves in a strange way. Many people today would not think of Ireland as a seat of great learning but in those crumbling years of the Roman Empire, they were far enough away to be just that, an educational Mecca of sorts. Monks, starting after Patrick (yes, the saint), started to copy down every scrap they could get their hands on. Whether Greek tragedies and mythologies, Roman histories, or their own verbal stories passed from the Celts to the "modern" Irish, the monks started to copy down everything, so doing creating libraries.

Knowledge used to be gained through books, pages provided enlightenment. Nowadays we have Google and Wikipedia, when we used to have Encyclopaedia Britannica. From the Dark Ages to the dawn of the Middle Ages, Ireland and the monasteries started by traveling monks and friars were the reservoirs of learning. Once the Vikings started sacking everyone along any known coastline, Ireland lost that, but still today we can look at the early Irish and say "thank you". Had they not copied everything that came their way, we would have lost the stories, the histories and the commentary of their own day and going back certainly farther then the First Century.

Truly a fascinating read!
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